New Delhi: Mr. K.J. Alphons, Hon’ble Minister of State for Tourism (IC) and Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India
In a conversation with Envoy Excellency, Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons has said The Indian government is seeking a dramatic increase in tourist figures, both foreign and domestic, in a way that it helps to earn more revenues and generate employment, “The number of foreign tourist arrivals was growing by 9.7% to 8.8 million in 2018. We want to increase it drastically. We also want to increase the number of domestic tourists, which was around 150 million. The whole idea is that we want to generate revenues and be a huge contribution to the economy,”
Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) at 8.8% to US$ 22.9 billion in 2016. FTAs during 2017 were 10.2 million, with a growth of 15.6%, while FEEs from tourism were US$ 27.7 billion, with a growth of 20.8% over 2016. Domestic tourist visits grew by 12.7% to 1,614 million in 2016 from 1,432 million in 2015.
Various initiatives have been taken by the Government to promote tourism include the introduction of the e-Visa facility under three categories of Tourist, Medical and Business for the citizens of 163 countries; launch of Global Media Campaign for 2017-18 on various Channels; launch of ‘The Heritage Trails’ to promote the World Heritage Sites in India; launch of International Media Campaign on various international TV channels; Celebration of ‘Paryatan Parv’ having 3 components namely ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ to encourage Indians to visit their own country, ‘Tourism for All’ with tourism events at sites across all states in the country, and ‘Tourism & Governance’ with interactive sessions & workshops with stakeholders on varied themes. FTAs on e-Tourist Visa grew by 143% to 10.8 lakh in 2016, and further grew by 57.2% to 17.0 lakh during 2017 said by Minister.
Speaking at his office in Transport Bhavan, Minister Alphons said: “We don’t want people to just come, see and go. We want them to stay, experience India, shop and spend money.”
“We have a 5,000-year-old civilisation, one of the oldest in the world. What is exceptional in India is that, along with the civilisation, we also have a philosophy. It is not only brick and mortar. It is much, much beyond it. The kind of spiritual and philosophical depth that Indian civilisationhas is unique.”
Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expectations from this ministry, Minister Alphons said “marketing the country well to the outside world is very crucial”.
“The entire thing is about marketing India, as we are an amazing, incredible and beautiful country. We just need to tell the world that we are a fantastic destination to visit. We want the whole world to come to India. They should come and feel the country and when they leave, they should say, ‘This was fantastic!'”
Asked about the steps needed to attract more tourists, the minister said better cleanliness and improved infrastructure are key focus areas of the government.
“Infrastructure has to be improved vividly. Cleanliness has to improve, footpaths must be built, manholes must be covered, drains must be covered, and they should not be encroached. It should be a hugely pleasant experience to walk around the cities; only then will foreign tourists go shopping.
“I am interested in generating money, because if we generate money that will create employment. They should walk around, laze around and feel comfortable,and that comfort should be provided by us. That means we have to improve our infrastructure around tourist destinations strongly,” the minister said.
Minister also shared his plan to promote the ‘49-dayKumbh Mela’ which is to begin in January 2019 with Envoy Excellency, the measures being taken by the Government to promote the ‘49 dayKumbh Mela’ on global platform, which is to going to held in January 2019, in order to attract foreign tourists are as below:
- Launch of ‘ChaloKumbhChalo’ campaign across the country
- Branding and marketing campaigns for Kumbh, 2019
- Advertisements at major international airports of the country to attract foreign tourists
- Development of a designated area for flag hoisting for 192 countries visiting Kumbh Mela
- Organising the ‘PravasiBharatiya Divas’, 2019 in Varanasi to attract ‘PravasiBharatiya Delegates’ to visit Kumbh, 2019
Whereas, following are the steps taken by the Government for smooth organising of Kumbh Mela:
- Drawing out of a detailed Movement and Parking Plan for convenient approach to and from parking areas
- Identification and development of holding areas for crowd control during the Mela period
- Deployment of digital signages in the Mela area to guide visitors towards places of interest and dissemination of crucial information by Government and law enforcement agencies
- Deployment of dustbins for solid waste management
- Engagement of Ganga Praharis and Swacchagrahis for helping gather community participation and awareness towards conservation of River Ganga.
Apart from above said facilities, the government has made following arrangements for the pilgrims who are expected to visit the Kumbh Mela:
- Construction and widening of public roads
- Construction of parking spots at short distances from mela area
- Provision of shuttle buses for the convenience of pilgrims
- Digital signages at systematic points to ensure smooth flow of traffic
- Construction of toilets to maintain cleanliness and hygiene
- Setting up of LED lights in the mela area
- Erection of tents for the use of tourists
- Convention halls and pandals for serving as hub of cultural events
- Deployment of telecommunication services, banking services and water ATMs in the Mela area
- Setting up of integrated command and control centre including CCTV cameras for the security of tourists
Alphons, also highlighted, Ministry of Tourism has identified 17 sites in 12 clusters in the country for development under Iconic Tourist Sites Development Project, pursuant to Budget Announcements of 2018-19. Following are the 17 sites: Uttar Pradesh- TajMahal & FatehpurSikri; Maharashtra- Ajanta & Ellora; Delhi- Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort & QutubMinar; Goa- Colva beach; Rajasthan- Amer Fort; Gujarat- Somnath &Dholavira; Madhya Pradesh- Khajuraho; Karnataka- Hampi; Tamil Nadu- Mahabalipuram; Assam- Kaziranga; Kerala- Kumarakom; Bihar- Mahabodhi.
The Ministry shall be developing the above sites in a holistic manner with focus on issues concerning connectivity to the destination, better facilities/experience for the tourists at the site, skill development, and involvement of local community, promotion & branding and by bringing in private investment.
The monuments taken up for development under the above mentioned project fall under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Archaeology Departments. The Ministry will carry out interventions at these monuments in collaboration with the ASI and State Government, and all development plans will have elements of universal accessibility, cleanliness at the monuments, use of Green Technology and enhanced security for the tourists.